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Ford Blocking Text Messages in Cars—A Good Start

Ford
CNBC.com
Ford

As Ford prepares to release its MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touchin-car communication systems a new feature of the systems will get a lot of attention.

Both will have a "do not disturb" button so people don't get phone calls or text messages while they are driving.

Instead, the messages will all be saved on the phone for drivers to get to a later time. Both systems will still allow the driver to call out.

Ford's system and the improvements it adds to limit driver distractions is a good start. While, CEO Alan Mulally has been trumpeting the company line of "hands on the wheel, eyes on the road," that approach did not go far enough to address the issue of the distracted mind. With call and text blocking, Ford is taking a big step in that direction. Frankly, other automakers should follow Ford and the federal government should go even further to restrict the ability of people to text and/or call while they are driving.

There is no denying that texting or talking on the phone while driving have lead to countless accidents, many of them with deadly consequences. And while more people, including Oprah Winfrey, are pushing drivers to not pick up their phone while behind the wheel, this problem will require more than just public education. This requires more systems like the MyFord Touch which allow you to block calls and texts.

I'm often asked by others, typically parents, why the federal government doesn't allow the sale of cell jamming systems that would completely disable the phone of someone in the drivers seat? The cell phone industry says it's not a good idea to jam signals because drivers need the ability to communicate in emergencies. A fair point, but one I don't completely buy. How often are you in an emergency that is so great you cannot pull over and stop to make a call? My guess is that it doesn't happen that often.

Until things change, we'll need more systems like MyFord Touch that allow drivers to hit the "do not disturb" button. Even then, it will require American drivers to re-think what they do behind the wheel and realize they don't have to be connected. Changing the habits of drivers will take a long time to happen. Look at drunk driving. For years, people have known it' dangerous and illegal to drink and drive. Still, it happens. While there is greater awareness and many people have stopped doing it, there are others who know they shouldn't drink and drive yet still do.

The issue is the same with texting and driving. It's all about people realizing they don't need to pick up the phone when they're behind the wheel. Here's hoping those with the new Ford system press the do not disturb button.

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